Systems Science Friday Noon Seminar Series



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The mainstream economics of the 20th century (and now 21st century) has often failed to predict what will happen--or explain what has happened--in the real world, even with (or because of?) an ever-increasing reliance on quantitative and computational methods. Since the mid-20th century a number of people part of, or closely associated with, the systems community--economists among them--have provided insights about what is wrong with "traditional" economics. Systems science offers a number of alternative methods for understanding economic systems that take heed of these criticisms, especially in the context of sustainable development. Yet, while promising, few of these alternatives have been rigorously validated with real-world data.

This talk will include a brief overview of what is typically meant by "traditional" or "mainstream" economics followed by a discussion of the many systems ideas relevant to economics in the context of sustainable development: Prospect Theory, repeated games, the tragedy of the commons, agent-based modeling, system dynamics, the "spaceman" economy, Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety, catastrophe theory, the panarchy adaptive cycle, and Parson's societal system. The main focus of this talk will be on what high-level insights we can gain from these different methodologies right now and what is necessary if these insights and the ideas and methods from which they are derived are to be incorporated into mainstream thought. Discussion and criticism of these ideas are encouraged.

Biographical Information

Joshua Hughes is a third-year, core-option Ph.D. student and graduate, research, and teaching assistant in the PSU Systems Science Graduate Program. He received his B.S. in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1993 and his M.S. in civil engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1995. He has more than a dozen years experience working as a geotechnical and environmental engineer in the Portland-Vancouver and San Francisco Bay areas providing investigations, recommendations, and oversight for a variety of residential, commercial, and public works projects. He is currently working with George Lendaris on research of higher-level applications of adaptive-critic-type methods of adaptive dynamic programming, and he has recently collaborated with Martin Zwick on a paper (in the revision process) showing how the panarchy adaptive cycle might be formalized using the cusp catastrophe. He is interested in information theory, cybernetics, reconstructability analysis, neural networks, fuzzy logic, catastrophe theory, game theory, as well as how systems ideas can be applied to large-scale problems such as sustainability. He is not an economist.


Sustainable development -- Economic aspects, Sustainable development -- Applications of system theory to, Economics -- Methodology, Game theory, System dynamics


Economic History | Economic Theory | Sustainability

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Systems Views of the Economics of Sustainable Development